Coping with Stress

Norb Slowikowski / January 2019

Believe it or not, stress is actually a positive force that enables us to survive. A certain level of stress is beneficial and stimulates us to perform well. Too much stress can impair performance. The stress response has been defined as “the body’s physical, mental and chemical reaction that frightens, excites, confuses, initiates and endangers.”
When demands outweigh the ability to cope—stress starts to have a negative effect on your life. Stress resistant personalities have what is referred to as the 3C’s:
Control—Possessing a clear sense of direction and purpose in a person’s life.
Commitment—A promise to follow through on something that truly motivates you.
Challenge—Embrace change as it happens. Even if a negative result imposes a threat, you work at initiating positive change.
There are three stages of stress:
Alarm—Something is changing in your life and you are not in a place to welcome change. Symptoms include restlessness, anxiety, anger, depression, fear.
Resistance—An inability to identify or discuss situations that may have a negative impact on relationships. Symptoms include denial of feelings, emotional isolation, narrowing of interests.
Exhaustion—An inadequate amount of time is available to resolve issues, life is overwhelming most of the time. Symptoms include loss of self-confidence, trouble sleeping, unusual and erratic behavior, physical problems (hypertension, anxiety, digestive issues).
Now not everyone can have the control over their lives and implement the 3C’s at will, but it is true that all of us have felt some type of the three stages of stress. There are ways to deal with the stress as it comes over you. You need to be mindful of the following:

Express Your Feelings
If you get angry or frustrated, don’t bottle it up. Look at why you are upset. Talk with someone about your feelings so you can better understand why you are upset. Ideally it would be good to talk to the source of your stress (if it isn’t you).

Avoid doing everything yourself. Find others who have the skills and ability to handle an issue or set of tasks and let them do it.

Don’t Put Things Off
Develop a “do it now” mentality. Procrastination is just another word for stress.

Take a Break
Stop and take time to de-stress throughout the day. Be mindful. Think about incorporating meditation or exercise into your daily life.

Seek Support
Ask for help when you have too much on your plate or don’t know how to do the work at hand.
Don’t struggle when you can enlist someone to help you get things done.

Keep Perspective
It’s only a job, it’s not your life. Always try to achieve balance in the various areas of your life (physical, mental, social, spiritual, financial).

Manage Your Time
Use a “to do” list. Write things down. Break down large jobs into smaller tasks.
You control your schedule, don’t let the schedule control you.
The overall notion you need to work toward is to take stress head-on. Be aware of the overwhelming feelings you have, and examine what is bothering you and deal with it. Take the million things you need to get done and break it down into manageable tasks that will get you to the bigger goal. Keep your well-being top of mind and take care of yourself so that stress won’t take care of you.

Norb Slowikowski is president of Slowikowski & Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill. To contact him, email